Annasrust Farm – A River Outing

One of the highlights of our visits to Annasrust Farm, near Hoopstad in the Free State, is the river cruise that Pieter likes to lay on for us.  During our April 2018 weekend visit to their beautiful farm, Pieter and Marietjie once again arranged to take us out on a late afternoon cruise and we duly set off around 4.30 pm from the riverside landing spot and headed out onto the smooth waters of the Vaal River on their purpose-built raft – basically a large platform on pontoons with a roof over, driven by a large outboard motor.

The Vaal River forms part of the Bloemhof dam at this point – Wikipedia has the following to say on the dam : The dam was commissioned in 1970, has a capacity of 1,269,000,000 cubic metres and has an area of 223 square kilometres, the wall is 33 metres high. It is fed with the outflow from the Vaal Dam (located upstream in Gauteng) as well as rain collected in the Vaal, Vet, Vals and Sand River catchment areas.

Gerda and I sat right in front with glorious views of the river, the slowly setting sun and the varied bird life already into their end of day activities – flying about restlessly, perhaps watching the other birds to see where they’re heading, possibly even wondering what this bunch of humans on the raft are up to… that sort of thing.

Sundowner cruise – enjoying the view
Doing it in style

Some of this activity was along the shoreline – Cormorants aplenty, groups of Spur-winged Geese and solitary Goliath Herons standing sentry at regular intervals as we cruised smoothly along. The setting sun made for picture-perfect scenes as the rays created multi-coloured patterns from behind the clouds lining the horizon.

Sundown approaching as we glide out onto the mighty river

Several birds passed the boat in graceful flight

Great Egret
White-breasted Cormorant skimming the water
White-winged Tern (Transitional plumage)

Passing a mid-river island, we saw signs of large colonies of various roosting and breeding bird species along its length. Approaching the colonies, the numbers of birds present were amazing – Darters, Cormorants, Spoonbills, Grey Herons, Yellow-billed Storks and, almost more than all the rest, Great Egrets.

Approaching a part of the massive mixed roost
Mixed roost
Mixed roost

I have seen individual colonies of most of these species at one time or another in the past, but never this variety in one place. The trees that made up the roosts were stained white from the bird’s presence and every available perch seemed to be occupied while numbers wheeled overhead, then dove down and pushed and shoved their way in with flailing wings and legs. Quite a sight to behold!

These photos give an idea of the extent of the colonies – just imagine the racket generated by all these birds to get an inkling of the full experience.

White-breasted Cormorants

At roost
White-breasted Cormorant With young at nest
Youngster at nest
White-breasted Cormorant

African Spoonbills

African Spoonbill
African Spoonbill (Juvenile)

African Darters

African Darter (with young)

Great Egrets

Mixed roost
Great Egrets
Great Egret

By now the sun was heading inexorably to its meeting with the horizon and Pieter took us back along the river to the spot where we had departed from (ooh, there I’ve done it again – the worst of english grammar crimes, ending a sentence with a preposition – but then, I love living on the edge)

Sundowner cruise

Close to the berth I spotted a Common Sandpiper at the water’s edge………

Common Sandpiper

Just to round off a magnificent outing, Pieter took a detour on the way back to the farm-house to show us the deep orange sunset against a backdrop of some picturesque trees. Only in Africa ……

Sunset, Annasrust farm Hoopstad

Now, if only I can get a job as game ranger on the farm……….

 

4 thoughts on “Annasrust Farm – A River Outing”

  1. Donald – I love these blogs – you are so lucky to live in Africa and to have this beauty more or less at your fingertips.

  2. Beautiful! What camera?
    And – Do you know that the definition of a preposition is “A word you mustn’t end a sentence with”?

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